POPE FRANCIS at GENERAL AUDIENCE
Library of the Apostolic Palace
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In these weeks of apprehension about the pandemic that is making the world suffer so much, among the many questions we ask ourselves, there may also be questions about God: what does he do in front of our pain? Where is it when everything goes wrong? Why don't you solve problems quickly? These are questions we ask about God.
The story of the Passion of Jesus, which accompanies us in these holy days, helps us. Even there, in fact, many questions gather. The people, after welcoming Jesus triumphantly to Jerusalem, wondered if he would finally free the people from his enemies (cf. Lk 24,21). They expected a powerful, triumphant Messiah with the sword. Instead a gentle and humble-hearted one arrives, who calls to conversion and mercy. And it is precisely the crowd, which had previously praised him, who shouted: "Let him be crucified!" (Mt 27.23). Those who followed him, confused and frightened, abandon him. They thought: if the fate of Jesus is this, the Messiah is not He, because God is strong, God is invincible.
But, if we go on reading the story of the Passion, we find an amazing fact. When Jesus dies, the Roman centurion who was not a believer, was not a Jew but was a pagan, who had seen him suffer on the cross and heard him forgive everyone, who had touched his love without measure, confesses: «Really this man was the Son of God "(Mk 15:39). It says just the opposite of the others. He says that there is God, who is truly God.
We can ask ourselves today: what is the true face of God? Usually we project what we are into Him at maximum power: our success, our sense of justice, and also our outrage. But the Gospel tells us that God is not like that. It is different and we could not know it with our own strength. This is why he came close, came to meet us and revealed himself completely at Easter. And where did it turn out completely? On the cross. There we learn the features of the face of God. Let us not forget, brothers and sisters, that the cross is the chair of God. It will do us good to look at the Crucified One in silence and see who our Lord is: it is He who does not point the finger. against someone, not even against those who are crucifying him, but he opens his arms wide to everyone; who does not crush us with his glory, but lets himself be undressed for us; who does not love us in words, but gives us life in silence; that does not force us, but frees us; who does not treat us as strangers, but takes our evil upon himself, takes our sins upon himself. And this, to free ourselves from prejudices about God, we look at the Crucifix. And then we open the gospel. In these days, all in quarantine and at home, closed, we take these two things in hand: the Crucifix, let's look at it; and open the gospel. This will be for us - so to speak - like a great domestic liturgy, because in these days we cannot go to church. Crucifix and Gospel!
In the Gospel we read that when people go to Jesus to make him king, for example after the multiplication of the loaves, he leaves (cf. Jn 6:15). And when the devils want to reveal his divine majesty, He silences them (cf. Mk 1: 24-25). Because? Because Jesus does not want to be misunderstood, he does not want people to confuse the true God, who is humble love, with a false god, a worldly god who shows off and imposes himself by force. He is not an idol. It is God who became man, like each one of us, and expresses himself as a man but with the strength of his divinity. Instead, when is the identity of Jesus solemnly proclaimed in the Gospel? When the centurion says, "He really was the Son of God." It is said there, as soon as he gave his life on the cross, because we can no longer be wrong: we see that God is omnipotent in love, and not in any other way. It is its nature, because it is made this way. He is love.
You may object: "What am I to do with such a weak God who dies? I would prefer a strong god, a powerful God! ”. But you know, the power of this world passes, while love remains. Only love guards the life we have, because it embraces our frailties and transforms them. It is the love of God who healed our sin at Easter with his forgiveness, which made death a passage of life, which changed our fear into trust, our anguish into hope. Easter tells us that God can turn everything for good. That with him we can truly trust that everything will be fine. And this is not an illusion, because the death and resurrection of Jesus is not an illusion: it was a truth! That's why we are told on Easter morning: "Don't be afraid!" (cf Mt 28.5). And the distressing questions about evil do not disappear suddenly, but find in the Risen One the solid foundation that allows us not to sink.
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus has changed history by making himself close to us and has made it, although still marked by evil, a history of salvation. By offering his life on the cross, Jesus also conquered death. From the open heart of the Crucifix, the love of God reaches each of us. We can change our stories by approaching him, accepting the salvation he offers us. Brothers and sisters, let us open our whole hearts in prayer, this week, these days: with the Crucified One and with the Gospel. Don't forget: Crucifix and Gospel. The domestic liturgy will be this. Let's open his whole heart in prayer, let his gaze rest on us and we will understand that we are not alone, but loved, because the Lord does not abandon us and never forget us. And with these thoughts, I wish you a Holy Week and a Holy Easter.
I cordially greet the Italian-speaking faithful. My thoughts go, in particular, to the groups that would have liked to be present today. Among these, university students from different countries who are practically experiencing the UNIV 2020 gathering. Dear students, I hope that this Holy Week will be a provident occasion for everyone to strengthen your personal relationship with Jesus and your faith in him crucified and risen.
Lastly, I greet the young, the sick, the elderly and the newlyweds. May the Passion of the Lord, culminating in the glorious triumph of Easter, constitute for each of you the source of hope and comfort in times of trial. My blessing to all.